Divorced couple’s frozen embryos must be ‘thawed and discarded’

In a ruling that validates the consent created at an IVF center, a San Francisco judge ruled that frozen embryos a woman wants to use over her ex-husband’s objections must be “thawed and discarded.”

Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo, in an 83-page decision, upheld a consent form the couple signed shortly after their marriage in 2010. The couple agreed on the form provided by the fertility clinic that the embryos should be destroyed if they divorced.

“It is a disturbing consequence of modern biological technology that the fate of nascent human life, which the embryos in this case represent, must be determined in a court by reference to cold legal principles,” Massullo wrote.

The ruling was a strong rebuke to Dr. Mimi C. Lee, 46, an anesthesiologist and musician, who argued the embryos were her only chance to have a child of her own because of her age. The judge questioned Lee’s motives and credibility and said she had not even proved she was infertile.

Stephen Findley, Lee’s former husband, wanted the embryos destroyed. He said their divorce had been acrimonious and he did not want to be tied to Lee for the rest of his life with a child.

In the first such ruling in California, Massullo decided the consent agreement was a binding contract.

“IVF clinics and individuals who participate in the IVF process must have some certainty about dispositional choices before embryos are created,” the judge wrote.

Lee discovered she had breast cancer just before her marriage and decided with Findley to create and store the embryos to preserve her fertility. The couple separated in 2013 and divorced earlier this year.

This ruling makes it even more important o carefully consider your choices in all potential circumstances when completing all aspects of the consent forms for IVF because the decisions you make will be binding.

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